Author Archive

Portneuf Nurses Headed to the Rescue in New Jersey

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

From wars to pandemics, when the world needs healing and support, nurses historically rise to the challenge. With the number of infections of COVID-19 increasing daily, nurses are needed now more than ever in hot spots across the country. Today, two Portneuf Medical Center registered nurses boarded an eastbound plane fully prepared to spend the next two weeks caring for COVID patients in New Jersey.

“I felt very protective of my team and hesitated for just a moment before asking if anyone would be willing to spend up to two weeks at one of our sister hospitals in New Jersey in one of the hardest hit COVID areas of the country,” said Amy Hemsley, RN, MSN, Director Critical Care Services at Portneuf Medical Center. “Six of our ICU nurses volunteered. As a team, we opted to share two nurses for a short period of time.”

Jill McQuary, RN, CCRN has been on the Portneuf ICU team for 13 years and Brittiney Curzon, RN, CCRN has been with Portneuf for 11 years, 7 of which have been in the ICU. These two nurses will serve at either Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center or Pascack Valley Medical Center, the two New Jersey hospitals in the Ardent Health Services family.

“The quality of nurses here is top-notch, said Charles Ivester, MD, Portneuf ICU Medical Director. “NJ is lucky to get them.”

“I feel we can bring some relief to their healthcare team,” said Curzon. “We have an opportunity to help save lives and to learn how to manage the challenges of treating large numbers of patients fighting the disease process of COVID-19.”

Both nurses are aware of the inherent risk of being on the front line of patient care, but they recognize that their fellow nurses in NJ are in serious need of intensive care and emergency trained nurses to supply the demand for care.

“Our sister hospital is so blessed to have these two talented nurses,” Hemsley said. “Our appreciation and pride will be with them as they enter infection hotspots, care for infected patients, and courageously put themselves at higher risk in order to support those in need.”

“New Jersey has been on the front lines for a while and I feel calm and hopeful that we will bring a sense of relief to tired nurses,” McQuary said. “When we return, we will follow Portneuf’s return to work policy and spend upward of 14 days in isolation before we return to our ICU.”

“There is an attitude at Portneuf of getting things done and as a team, we are very well prepared and ready,” said Ivester.

While nurses and providers are front-line support, the resolution of the global issue still lies in the hands of community members. The best way to support the healthcare community is to stay home, self-isolate, and practice good personal hygiene to disrupt the spread of the virus.

Celebrating Doctors’ Day

Monday, March 30th, 2020

When I think of Doctors’ Day, I too think of why we celebrate this profession. We celebrate so that providers and the community can continually be more aware of the miracles we see in our hospitals and practices every day. The miracles of birth, of recovery from injury, of diseases that are turned back and even in the miracle of discovering hope amid a serious difficulty, when a cure seems unlikely.

During this challenging time in health care, I am even more aware that my colleagues are passionate about serving others; they are passionate about making a meaningful difference in their patients’ lives; and they are passionate about helping each other with patient care and with issue beyond patient care. I am humbled and honored to work side-by-side with those in our medical community who give so much of themselves to raise the level of healthcare for our families, friends, neighbors and visitors.

I think about colleagues and the countless hours of research, continuing education and on-call schedules that take them away from their families. I too am acutely aware of the nights and weekends they spend at the hospital so they can attend to their patients.

So why do we celebrate Doctors’ Day? We do so not for ourselves, but for our colleagues, we do so to recognize our collective contributions. With a deep appreciation and respect for those who have served as care providers, mentors, friends, co-workers, and partners, I thank you and celebrate you!

Dan Snell, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer of Portneuf Medical Center. Dr. Snell has his Medical Degree and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Utah. He completed his anesthesia residency at the University of Arizona and is board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology.

Covid-19 Updates

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Stay at Home If You have Mild Symptoms/ER for Severe Symptoms
• Please stay at home if your symptoms are mild.
• If you are concerned about your symptoms, first call your physician’s office.
• If you have severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing, call before you can go to the emergency room. In an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Testing Only Patients Who Meet Criteria
• We are not a testing site for community members concerned about the coronavirus.
• We will only test patients and health care providers who meet our current testing guidelines. These people are:
• People who are hospitalized and have signs and symptoms of COVID-19
• People who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and are at higher risk for severe disease. Those at higher risk include: Adults over the age of 60 and people with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and kidney disease.
• People with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and are current health care workers
If clinical staff has ruled out influenza and strep throat, our process is to contact the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Department (SIPH), to determine whether COVID-19 testing is appropriate.

COVID-19 Test Results
We are working closely with the state on testing and will contact you as soon as results are received.

• We are currently on a no-visitation policy. Visitation exceptions include:
• In the Emergency Department, one caregiver if needed per patient will be allowed.
o No one under the age of 18, unless the parent of the patient.
• In Labor & Delivery, one visitor per patient will be allowed.
o No one under the age of 18, unless the parent of the baby.
• For our pediatric/newborn patients, parents/caregivers are allowed.
o No one under the age of 18, unless the parent of the patient.
• Patients who are critically ill or at end of life – only immediate family will be allowed:
o This means that two people will be screened and required to wear a mask while visiting their loved one.
• Additional family members may NOT wait in the hospital lobby.

For our patients visiting our clinics or outpatient services, please check with screeners as our clinics may differ due to patient population served.

*All visitors will be screened for flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
*If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you will not be permitted to enter.

Eat More Vegetables

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Vegetables are the easiest way to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases and all-cause mortality. However, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for America found that vegetable intake is below the recommendations for all age groups in our country. Daily intake for vegetables is recommended between 2.5 to 3 cups. Read the tips below to find out how you can get eat more vegetables!
10 Tips for Eating More Vegetables:

1. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, or quick snacks while cooking dinner.
2. Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat dressing or hummus.
3. Utilize canned vegetables such as tomatoes, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, or beets. Select those labeled with “reduced sodium” or “no salt added”, or “low-sodium”.
4. Vegetable soups like tomato, butternut squash, or garden vegetables soup. Make your own soups with a low-sodium broth!
5. Use vegetables as pizza toppings. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms.
6. Stuff an omelet, pasta dish or your favorite homemade nachos with vegetables.
7. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables or chopped veggies to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
8. Add spinach or kale to your favorite fruit smoothie.
9. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Don’t forget beans or chickpeas.
10. Vary your veggies! Aim to try a new vegetable every month.

Information provided by Alyssa Lynott RDN,LD
Choose MyPlate
Today’s Dietitian

Portneuf Medical Center Announces Entry Only for Patients Seeking Care – No Visitors

Monday, March 16th, 2020

The situation surrounding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) continues to evolve and changes occur rapidly. As a result, Portneuf Medical Center has restricted visitation as of Monday, March 16, 2020. Only on-duty staff, physicians and patients seeking care may enter.

This visitation restriction is being done out of an abundance of caution. The health and safety of our patients, their families, and team members remain a top priority for Portneuf Medical Center. We routinely restrict visitation by any visitors who are ill in order to maintain the health of our patients. We have implemented travel restrictions and return-to-work processes for employees and providers.

Visitation exceptions may be made in certain situations, including:
• Delivering mothers (one companion/visitor)
• Parents/ immediate caregivers of Pediatric patients
• Ambulatory care and same day surgery (one visitor)
• Hospice patients; end-of-life

Those entering for care will need to provide their contact information and will be allowed to enter the facility only at the following locations.

Main Entrance (Ground Floor)
5:00am – 8:00pm
Main Entrance (1st floor across from parking garage)
6:30am – 5:30pm
Medical Group Clinic
7:30am – 5:30pm
Emergency Department

Phone and video calls to patients are welcome and encouraged. To call a patient room, please call 208-239-1000. You must be able to provide the patient’s first and last name.

Portneuf Medical Center Prepares for COVID19

Monday, March 16th, 2020

The COVID-19 situation is an unprecedented health event that is changing rapidly. Portneuf Medical Center has launched its COVID-19 response and emergency preparedness planning.

We have adequate supplies and equipment for patient care and our staff remains focused on providing excellent care to all our patients. Through our parent company, we are also working with our distributors and suppliers to ensure we continue to have the equipment and supplies needed if we see a surge in patients.

“To ensure the safety of our staff and those we serve, we have implemented several process changes related to COVID-19,” said Dan Snell, MD, MPH, CMO Portneuf Medical Center. “We are following CDC guidelines for screening all patients for travel and COVID-19 symptoms.”

Portneuf Medical Center has taken the following steps:
• Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, we are instituting a no visitation policy.
• For patients under investigation for COVID-19, we are following CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our staff and to provide the highest level of care to our patients.
• We have implemented travel restrictions and return-to-work processes for employees and providers.
• We have suspended volunteer work in patient care areas.
• We have increased the frequency of cleaning in the Portneuf Grille as well as suspended the use of personal cups and mugs and temporarily suspended the self-serve salad bar and other self-serve items.
• We have published a COVID-19 resource page on our external website,

Other trusted sources for COVID-19 information include:

Idaho Department of Health:

Centers for Disease Control:

National Nutrition Month – Eat Right, Bite by Bite

Friday, March 13th, 2020

“People often view snacks as an energy boost, a hunger-satisfier, a recreational activity, or a treat,” says Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. A more healthful view is that a snack is another opportunity to consume nutrients and boost health, she says.


15 Tips for Snacking Smart

  • Focus on an eating pattern that promotes a healthy body weight, meets nutrient needs, and lessens the risk for chronic disease
  • Pick snack foods that are low in added fat, sugar and sodium, and high in protein, fiber and vitamins/minerals
    • Protein with carbohydrates will help you feel the fullest longest
  • Pair foods from different food groups to consume a wider variety of nutrients
  • If snacks are consumed, balance these choices with meal choices (think about your entire day)
  • Consider eating frequency in addition to portion sizes, and be mindful of hunger cues
    • Avoid snacking at “off” times, such as too close to mealtimes or late at night
  • Plan ahead: pre-portion snacks to promote convenience and avoid overconsumption
  • Avoid break room freebies (you might not even realize how often you reach for these items)
  • Keep a list of favorite snack foods and/or brands to refer to for ideas
  • Don’t forget about liquid calories, including those from sweetened coffees and teas, soda, fruit drinks, and energy drinks
  • Be cautious with snacks that appear healthy
    • Example: trail mix – oftentimes, these can contain yogurt covered raisins, deep-fried banana chips, chocolate chips or candy pieces, and salted nuts
  • Create a list of your favorite snacks to refer to
  • Practice reading food labels
    • Look at the portion size, fat, sugar, sodium, protein, fiber and the ingredient list
  • Use containers that are reusable, or materials that are recyclable to reduce waste
  • Organic does not necessarily mean healthy, and these foods can still be processed with a good amount of added fat, sugar and sodium
  • Limit intake of added sugars to less than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men, limit intake of sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and limited intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories


Instead of This Eat This
Cookies, candy, processed baked goods Fresh or dried fruit, energy balls, dark chocolate, whole-grain baked goods, whole grain dry cereal
Pretzels Popcorn, whole grain crackers, dehydrated vegetables/chickpeas/wasabi peas
Fruit snacks, fruit leather Fresh, frozen or canned fruit without added sugars, dried fruit
Potato chips (including fried veggie chips) Dehydrated vegetable chips, plain baked chips, mixed nuts, whole grain crackers, roasted chickpeas, raw vegetables with dip (hummus, guacamole), seaweed
Prepared trail mix Homemade trail mix
Protein bars or granola bars with added sugars Protein bars or granola bars that limited added sugars or that contain natural sugars (fruit)
Soda pop Flavored water
Flavored yogurt Plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, string cheese
Certain nut butters (those that are low fat, hydrogenated, or with added sugars) Natural nut butter
Full fat ice cream Homemade popsicles, banana “nice” cream, slow-churned ice cream, sorbet, high protein ice cream



Information provided by Jill Peters, MPH, RDN, LD.

Online Resources:
Center for Science in the Public Interest – Healthy School Snacks
Choose My Plate (USDA) – 10 Tips: MyPlate Snack Tips for Parents
Today’s Dietitian (search: snacks)


Postponing Public Events

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Pocatello, ID (3/11/20) – In support of community health and to prevent the possible spread of upper respiratory illness, Portneuf Medical Center is postponing upcoming public events and meetings. This decision was made in accordance with guidance set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to at-risk populations to avoid mass gatherings. Portneuf Medical Center remains committed to meeting our community’s healthcare needs while keeping our patients, providers, staff and visitors safe.

At this time, we are postponing the following events at Portneuf Medical Center:

· Teddy Bear Clinic, originally scheduled for March 14, 2020

· Daniel Rowland, MD seminar on women’s health, originally scheduled for March 19, 2020

We will announce dates for rescheduled events pending further guidance from health authorities.

We remind everyone that the most effective way to prevent the spread of any communicable disease is to avoid contact with those who are sick, and to stay home if you are sick. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and keep your hands away from your face if possible.

We will provide ongoing updates and thank you for your understanding.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Mary Keating, Director of Marketing at

Portneuf Medical Center Nationally Recognized for High Quality Care

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Portneuf Medical Center has been recognized among the nation’s top hospitals with a top five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS assigns star ratings to more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide based on their performance across seven quality measures. Only 407 hospitals received a 5-star rating in 2020, placing Portneuf Medical Center in the top 10 percent in the country to earn this distinction.

“When people need to make important healthcare decisions, the star rating is one way to help them make a sound choice based on objective measures,” said Mark Gregson, interim CEO, Portneuf Medical Center. “At Portneuf, our team is dedicated to delivering world-class care. The CMS website makes it easy to compare facilities in the area side-by-side and get answers to important questions about healthcare quality.”

The overall rating ranges from one to five stars. The more stars, the better a hospital performed on the available quality measures. According to CMS, the most common overall hospital rating is 3 stars. The consumer-oriented website shows how well each hospital performed, on average, compared to other hospitals in the U.S. To compare facilities, visit

“Portneuf has realized sustainable growth and improvements. Our programs work in concert to promote our main priorities: extending excellent patient care and increasing patient satisfaction,” stated Mark Buckalew, chairman of the board at Portneuf

“The CMS 5-star rating reflects the hard work and commitment of close to 2,000 caregivers. We are dedicated to living our mission of providing safe, compassionate care each and every day,” said Joni Curtis, Chief Quality Officer, Portneuf Medical Center. “It is a huge achievement for the Portneuf team and, more importantly, for the benefit of our community.”

“Portneuf is a great community asset,” explained Gregson. “It is rare, in a community this size, to have a hospital with great depth in medical specialties that also ranks in the top 10 percent of the country for quality outcomes. The future for Portneuf Medical Center and Pocatello is very bright.”

Idaho Man’s Surprise Need for a Heart Valve Replacement

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Wade Johnson, 58, knew something was wrong. He would become exhausted after doing minimal activity. Even while mowing the yard, he would do two passes before having to stop to catch his breath. After a year, Johnson decided he needed to see his doctor.

Luis Fernandez, MD did a complete exam and health history and referred Johnson to Portneuf for an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. By measuring time intervals, a doctor can determine how long the electrical wave take to pass through the heart. EKGs are used to determine if electrical activity is normal or slow, fast or irregular.

When the results came back, Dr. Fernandez saw there was a major issue with Johnson’s heart.

“Dr. Fernandez called me and I thought hearing from him personally was unusual,” recalled Johnson. “He took it upon himself because he knew this was important news. He told me that I was going to need a heart valve replacement.”

Johnson was shocked when he received the call from his primary care provider and heard the treatment recommendation. Because Dr. Fernandez has worked closely with the heart and vascular surgeons at Portneuf, he was able to share that it may be possible for Johnson to have the valve replaced through a catheterization procedure. The procedure is often advised for patients as it is much easier than open heart surgery. Having options made Johnson feel somewhat calm about the procedure.

Johnson was referred to Jacob DeLaRosa, MD, cardiovascular surgeon at Portneuf Medical Center. He underwent additional testing to determine his eligibility for the procedure.

“One day, I was out of phone range and then when I came back, I had a message to call Dr. DeLaRosa,” says Johnson. “He told me that they weren’t going to be able to do that catheterization procedure. I would have to have open heart surgery.”

Dr. DeLaRosa explained that there were more risks with an open heart surgery. Johnson asked what the chances were that he wouldn’t make it through the procedure. The doctor told him there was a 10-15% chance it might not work.

“I was driving back home thinking, this could be the last month I’m on Earth. It startled me,” says Johnson. “This is one of the best surgeons in the US is telling me that it’s risky.”
Dr. DeLaRosa took his time and talked with Johnson about the procedure, the risks and the recovery.

“Dr. DeLaRosa’s team is just amazing,” says Johnson. “After I met with Dr. Delarosa, he told me I needed open heart surgery, he told his nurse that I should be taken care of, that I’m a good man. She said she would take care of me, take care of all my appointments and contact all the doctors. That was a big help. A big relief. She knew the seriousness of it and she was going to make it as easy as she could for me. I was way impressed.”

Johnson’s heart had a blockage. Where most people have blood flowing through, Johnson only had a “trickle” of blood passing through the valve. The lack of blood coming through the valve is why Johnson was having issues breathing. While studying his heart, Dr. DeLaRosa discovered that not only did he have a buildup of calcium, but the calcium had formed a ring, touching both sides of the valve.

“There was a ring of calcium connected to both sides in my aortic valve,” says Johnson. “Dr. DeLaRosa said he was concerned about shattering the calcium ring. He said it could kill me if it shattered.”

At first, Johnson was expecting to have a simpler procedure. Now he faced open heart surgery that included riskier circumstances than most patients. However, he put all his trust in Dr. DeLaRosa and the Portneuf Medical Center team was he went into surgery in October of 2019.

After six hours of surgery, Johnson woke up in the ICU. His surgery was a success.

He spent a couple of days in the ICU and a few more recovering in the hospital.

“The second day in the ICU, I had a really nice nurse that helped me. He got me walking,” says Johnson. “I walked maybe 20 feet with a walker. Next day, I went clear to the end of the hall with the walker. Next day, I went all the way around the floor with a walker. The next day I didn’t even have to use the walker. I did some stairs and other things by the fourth day. The nurses that I had were all great. Made me feel comfortable and couldn’t have been nicer. They were right there to give me anything I needed when I buzzed them.”

Open heart surgery requires months of recovery, involving a lot of pain. Johnson has been through rehabilitation and is feeling 99% better. He can walk miles and go up large hills and do so without stopping to catch his breath. He’s looking forward to returning to work and thanks the Portneuf Medical Center team for helping him through the whole process.

“The other day I even did a little bit of jogging,” says Johnson. “I want to feel the effects of having a good heart again.”

At Portneuf Medical Center, we care for your heart. Our physicians, combined with our highly-skilled nursing staff, offer high-quality care every time. Call our Cardiology clinic at 208-239-3899 if you have questions or want to be sure that your heart is healthy.